WTF: 2D or Not 2D, That Is the Question

Two years ago, I went to a special press screening of the early footage of Beowulf in RealD 3D. It was a small event for press that missed the big public event the night before, so I was in a small crowd of a dozen or so people. Now, I had seen high-quality 3D presentations before, including an old polarized 3D presentation of the original House of Wax when I was a kid and all the IMAX 3D films over the years.

However, there was something special with the digital projection system and the new 3D presentation that blew me away. The ten-minute sample of a nearly nude Angelina Jolie blew my pants off. Literally. (Yes, I literally lost my pants in the theater, but got them back on before the house lights went up.)

After the presentation, I had a chance to chat with the guys who were helping roll RealD out to theaters around the world. They assured us that the technology was getting even better, and there was even a possibility of bringing to the home video market within a decade.

This experience prompted me to write a glowing endorsement of RealD on this very site. Shortly after this, 3D exploded onto the American cinema scene, with digital projection coming to more than 1000 theaters while Hollywood started releasing digital 3D movies practically every weekend.

There’s no doubt about it that with the exception of a few flops (like Fly Me to the Moon, Battle for Terra and The Jonas Brother Concert Experience), 3D movies have made mad money this year.

Yet, still people are claiming that it’s still just a gimmick?

What the fad?

I personally am a huge fan of 3D, and have been ever since the red-blue anaglyph glasses and cheesy movies like Friday the 13th: Part 3. Now, the technology has come up to speed, and 3D is now fully realized.

Here’s my beef with the 3D haters out there. First, some movies are just more fun in 3D. And yes, these are kids’ movies, which I am constantly being ridiculed for enjoying. Flicks like G-Force, Monsters vs. Aliens and even last year’s Bolt, were even better in 3D. Just watch the box office receipts for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs coming out this week, and you’ll see that this gimmick still works.

For me, 3D is awesome because it enhances a movie experience. While I hated The Final Destination, it was better in 3D simply for the carnival sideshow nature of the film. And My Bloody Valentine 3D was a blast in February.

The rush to 3D for some films is a little much, like with Iron Man 2. This after-the-fact upgrade goes a bit too far, giving us a mediocre 3D experience (which I experienced first-hand with Superman Returns a few years back).

But the bottom line is that as far-reaching as digital 3D is, it’s still not universal. With the exception of the Disney concert films (i.e., Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers), every movie that is released in 3D is also released in 2D. So why the hating?

If you don’t want to watch bloated post-production 3D effects in Iron Man 2, you can still see it in its traditional format. With the exception of a few critics I know who have to see movies in limited press screenings, no one is forcing anyone to watch a movie in 3D.

Haters out there want 3D to be a fleeting experience, but it won’t be. Right now, it is the only part of the cinematic experience that requires you to be in a theater to see. You can get a 90-inch plasma HD TV, hook it up to a kick-ass sound system and watch a Blu-ray at home, giving you a movie-watching experience that is just as good, if not better than what you see in the theater. But until the folks at RealD give us a home video platform that can handle this high-quality 3D, the theaters will have a monopoly on the effect. And people are paying premium prices for it… and they will continue to pay for it. I know I will.

Will 3D movies become the standard in years to come? I doubt that. Maybe if Avatar does big enough business and if the Iron Man 2 upgrade fills the seats, we’ll see 3D employed on more blockbusters. But I don’t expect the next Jane Austen adaptation to be shown in IMAX 3D. But for big event movies, it is inevitable.

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